Hovercraft companies, which are providing tough competition for the more leisurely cross-channel ferry services between France and England, are planning to cut deeper into their traffic in the near future.
Hovercraft companies, which are providing tough competition for the more leisurely cross-channel ferry services between France and England, are planning to cut deeper into their traffic in the near future. Seaspeed, the cross-channel company owned jointly by British and French Railways, has been working on a series of projects to provide bigger and faster hovercrafts for the route. British Rail is increasing its hovercraft capacity by a process called "jumboing"...stretching its hovercraft by adding sections. On Thursday (25 May) they took their new hovercraft, which is the largest in the world, on a trial across the English Channel.
SYNOPSIS: The "jumboed" Princess Anne is capable of carrying more than 400 passengers and 60 cars since its "stretching" at Cowes on the Isle of Wight last year. The 300 ton craft was lengthened by 55 feet (13 metres) which officials say has resulted in more stability less noise and a smoother flight. Seaspeed present services only operate on the short hops of Dover to Calais and Boulogne. British Rail hopes the large Princess Anne can establish a longer run to Ostend in Belgium and with it take away a bigger share of the cross-channel traffic from existing ferry services.
Known as the "Super 4" the hovercraft has a 70 percent greater revenue-earning capability than its Mark 1 version predecessors and it will only cost 15 percent more to run. To accommodate the expected increased hovercraft traffic, a new hovercraft is under construction at Dover. It will cost approximately 16 million dollars to complete.
A trial trip to Ostend was organized to promote sales and check on the craft's performance. But the immediate future of an England to Belgium service is in doubt. Flight desk personnel say they are unhappy with wage rates and industrial action may delay proposed schedules. Officials say the hour and a half flight to Ostend must be a winner over the three and a half hour crossing by ferry. Seaspeed says that Belgium, apart from being a capital city link between London and Brussels, also falls within the craft's optimum operating distance and would make Ostend and ideal service.